Sports brawls not new – expectations have changed

Fights and all out brawls are not new to basketball. Episode 2 (1958-1968) of “The Tournament: A History of ACC Men’s Basketball” which is currently showing on the ACC Network presents black and white footage of a brawl between Duke and Wake Forest near the end of a heated game in Durham nearly 60 years ago. Police had little control as players and some fans went at it on the court for six minutes! The University of Michigan and the Big 10 Conference have a slightly different concern to deal with after Michigan coach Juwan Howard punched Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft during an altercation in the handshake line after Wisconsin coach Greg Gard called a timeout with 15 seconds left in the game and Wisconsin up 14 points. Howard objected to the timeout and first reacted strongly in an exchange with Gard as they passed in the line, then reached past others in the crowded line to punch Krabbenhoft. Players on both teams joined in the fracas. When asked about his feelings and seeing his players join in the fight, Howard noted, “Unfortunately, it had to end up like that. I respect our young men for saying what they’re saying as far as – ‘we are a family’ – but did not want to be in a situation with anything like that.”

More is expected of Howard in his role as head coach at the University of Michigan. His comments of feeling the need to protect himself are ludicrous! I can understand the frustration surrounding the timeout, and the bad taste of a 14-11 season after a #6 preseason ranking but throwing punches during a time to demonstrate sportsmanship is not the answer. Still, almost 24 hours later, the University of Michigan and the Big 10 Conference leadership have not issued any suspensions. This is easy! Howard should be suspended for the rest of the season, then evaluations of additional actions taken after a review of the program if necessary. The only other public statements that need to come from Michigan should be Howard’s apology for his actions, and an acknowledgment of the weight of his responsibility to be the example of the leader of men that is expected by the players that he recruits, their parents, the university, and the community that looks up to him as a role model and supports him. This is not about what Bobby Knight and other coaches got away with in the past. Their actions would not be accepted today. Times have changed. Expectations have changed. This is about now! If other suspensions are warranted, the Big 10 Conference should issue a statement by the end of day. No blustering required! This is not hard!

Update: Juwan Howard suspended for the rest of the regular season.